A regenerative medicine company in Bar Harbor received a $1.5 million grant to further its research on treating patients who have suffered acute heart attacks.

Novo Biosciences, a spinoff of the MDI Biological Laboratory, received the two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will allow the company to move ahead with studies on the effectiveness of a potential regenerative medicine therapy, called MSI-1436, in pigs.

The treatment has already proved effective in regenerating damaged heart tissue in mice and zebrafish, according to a release from Novo Biosciences announcing the grant.

“We believe MSI-1436 has enormous potential,” said Kevin Strange, CEO of Novo Biosciences and president of the MDI Biological Laboratory. “No drug now exists to treat heart attack. Heart disease is the the world’s leading killer. In order to advance MSI-1436 into clinical trials, we need to first test its effectiveness in a large animal model. We are deeply grateful to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for making this possible.”

The proven safety of MSI-1436 in early-stage clinical trials significantly decreases the time and expense associated with developing the drug as a potential treatment for heart attack, he added.

Studies will be conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center Cardiovascular Center of Excellence in New Orleans. If MSI-1436 is effective in pigs, Novo Biosciences will seek an FDA authorization to conduct clinical trials in heart attack patients. It will also seek financing to move the drug through the clinical trial process, said scientist Yoot Vin in the release.

The company’s work was lauded by Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, who issued a joint statement.

“Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in America and affects thousands of Mainers every year. It is critical that we continue to support research that tests new and innovative therapies to prevent heart attacks and treat the damage they cause,” they said. “By further advancing the science behind cardiovascular disease and healing mechanisms, we can help save lives and improve the health of our communities.”

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